Black and grays freezing? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-18-2012, 06:50 PM   #1
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Black and grays freezing?

Our black and/or gray tanks are below the trailer. I saw that Charles Watts with his Casita camps in winter and uses those tanks (not the fresh tank or water lines.) Are the Casita black and gray enclosed?

If the daytime temperatures always rise well above freezing, does it matter if the black and gray tanks freeze at night?

Anyone else camping like that?
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Old 12-18-2012, 07:03 PM   #2
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The gray tank is exposed to freezing, not sure about the black tank. Either way, freezing will not hurt the tanks as long as there is room for expansion. The inside plumbing is where you may have problems with freezing.
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Old 12-18-2012, 08:14 PM   #3
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I had the water pump in my Casita freeze recently. I was boondocking and don't like running the heater at night. As soon as I got the trailer warmed up the next morning, everything was fine. The PEX tubing used in most RV's is awfully tough and I would be surprised if it broke due to freezing. Still, I'll try to avoid this in the future.
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Old 12-18-2012, 09:35 PM   #4
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I should have said that using the black and grays means pouring water down the sinks and toilet from jugs.

Jim, were you freezing your tanks, or at least the gray, every night up north? You were not able to use the lines or fresh water, were you? Did it go above freezing in the day?
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Old 12-18-2012, 09:50 PM   #5
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I think that in order to talk about freezing water tanks one needs to have a bit of an understanding of how freezing works. Everybody talks about freezing temperatures of 32F (0C) as freezing. That's the temperature at which distilled water at sea level start to solidify.
When impurities are introduced that temperature gets lower.
In order for a water to freeze the temperature has to cold enough to remove all the above freezing heat out of the it. The larger the container of the more it takes to freeze it.
When water freezes it expands, if there some room for expansion then no damage occurs. The PEX tubing is flexible enough to provide most, if not all the room needed for expansion. A 3/4 full tank provides two things, one it's more difficult to freeze and provided a lot of room for expansion.
The biggest problem is the more rigid drain valves and drain tubes.

In my case the fresh water tank is inside and at least 75% full. I keep the inside of the trailer at around 50F in cold weather. The gray water tank is outside and drained.

I've camped in 5F weather. Never worried about fresh water tank freezing, the tank is inside, under a dinette bench and the plumbing going to the sink is inside the same way. We kept the trailer between 55F and 70F depending on the time of day. I have no idea what the freezing temperature of the gray water tank, but it was never more than 1/4 full so we just didn't worry about it. We had more problems keeping the battery charged with using the furnace so much. I had to use my radio battery to supplement the house battery.
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Old 12-19-2012, 12:44 AM   #6
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Byron, that's good for you that you have the fresh water tank inside. Ours is on the exterior. So you have no such problems and are able to manage very well.

For anyone's interest, here are photos of what I suppose is our gray tank and black tank drain.

I know that some people have used light bulbs if their lines and tanks are in compartments. The bulbs kept the temperatures well above freezing even in extremely cold weather.

Some Escape owners have had the bottom of the trailer sprayed with foam (oh, I forgot, that's you, Jim so my questions to you are moot). My only reservation about doing that is that it adds 70-90 lbs. We might just do it sometime though.
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P1010513 Gray:bl drain.jpg   P1010512 bl drain:gray tank.jpg  

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Old 12-19-2012, 02:07 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cathy View Post
Our black and/or gray tanks are below the trailer. I saw that Charles Watts with his Casita camps in winter and uses those tanks (not the fresh tank or water lines.) Are the Casita black and gray enclosed?

If the daytime temperatures always rise well above freezing, does it matter if the black and gray tanks freeze at night?

Anyone else camping like that?

Let me try again a bit more simply. If the temperature rises well above freezing during the day your tanks won't freeze at night.
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Old 12-19-2012, 05:55 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
Let me try again a bit more simply. If the temperature rises well above freezing during the day your tanks won't freeze at night.
Byron, sounds good. Very good! Thank you for the explanation.

I made a big mistake, however, as our fresh water tank is inside. I think of it as being on the exterior because I am used to going to it there to turn the valve to drain it. But that valve wouldn't likely freeze I guess if the tank is kept warm. Going by what you do, I don't see why we can't open the cabinet doors under the bed where that tank and lines are located and open the kitchen doors to the lines to let the heat keep everything warm. Except for the gray tank in weather worse than what I am describing. On the drain valves, Charles says he uses a hairdryer if they should freeze.

From what you have said, no reason to worry about even using the fresh water tank under the scenario I gave. If we should be in much colder weather, we would have to worry about the gray tank and not use it. I am pretty happy with the idea that we could be in freezing weather at night only and use all of the tanks. That is the situation we are considering.
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Old 12-19-2012, 06:28 AM   #9
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I'm sorry Cathy, I did not realize you had an Escape. Yes you fresh and black tanks are inside. The black is under the street side dinette and fresh is under your bed. You are set to go in the winter as long as you have heat. The foam added around 100 lbs I think, but it also keeps the floor a lot warmer which helps in the winter.
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Old 12-19-2012, 07:08 AM   #10
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You can always dump RV antifreeze in the gray/black water tanks to keep the valves from freezing. I think that's a good idea anyway. It doesn't take much... a quart or so. I can get RV antifreeze on sale for around $3.99 a gallon. Cheap insurance.
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Old 12-19-2012, 10:06 AM   #11
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For what it's worth, water changes temperature slower than its surroundings. That's why bodies of water large enough moderate the climate. Example: inland Michigan gets hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than the shore areas.
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Old 12-19-2012, 11:24 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Donna D. View Post
You can always dump RV antifreeze in the gray/black water tanks to keep the valves from freezing. I think that's a good idea anyway. It doesn't take much... a quart or so. I can get RV antifreeze on sale for around $3.99 a gallon. Cheap insurance.
I would agree with Donna. For my Casita, I would worry more about the area between the tank and the valves, which are ABS plastic and pretty exposed. Being closer to pure water, the gray side would be most likely to freeze. If you're boondocking, you could probably get away with leaving the gray valve open.
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Old 12-19-2012, 01:03 PM   #13
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Stuff under the freezing depends on many things. Clear cold nights are one. Ice will form where ever moisture is exposed to the sky, something shielded, like under the trailer, takes a lot longer to freeze. Next time you have frost, observe where there's frost and where there's none.
If the temperature stays well below freezing for several days, then you're like likely to have stuff frozen. If the dips to below freezing at night then above during the day, all that shielded stuff isn't going to freeze.

Which brings me to my safety rant.... Air temperature and road temperature are two different things. Those nice little thermometers in your vehicle that indicates possible ice with some symbol or another when the air temperature gets to 35F are of no help. Road temperatures on a clear night are much colder that air temperatures by 10 to 15F. Air temperatures of 40 after a clear night, the road could be ice. Be careful.
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Old 12-19-2012, 02:29 PM   #14
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Escape 19' fresh water tank is usually on the exterior. I have to correct my correction. I was right the first time. I had been thinking that I would see the fresh water tank when I looked under the bed but I must only be seeing the water heater. Our Escape is in another town and can't look except for photos. Can't find the interior shots right now but here is exterior.

Jim, your fresh water is under the bed because you have the foam and heat pads. Some people request the fresh water tank be put under the bed. So I believe that most Escape fresh water tanks are exterior.

Thank you for the responses. Donna, I assume you mean that adding anti-freeze to the water already in the tanks will help, even if diluted.
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